“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”

Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

As you read this, we are making our way
back across the country towards our beloved home.
It's great to have an adventure, but even better to come home again...
especially now, with everything ready for Christmas:


We'll be back tomorrow with more "tales from the farm."


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It's What's On The Inside That Counts.... Not Always

Just as important as what is on the inside...
is how it is packaged...
in some cases
(humans and animals excluded - except for roosters, of course!).


While I am extremely choosy about what I feed my family,
and the products that we use,
I am becoming equally concerned with how those items are packaged.

One of my favorite indulgences is croissants from Costco,
(they are seriously delicious, all-butter croissants)
but the packaging is a nightmare.
12 of these flakey-soft, delicious pastries are packaged in a huge, hard-molded,
non-recyclable plastic box.
Sadly, because of this packaging, I have stopped buying them.
Note to self: must learn to bake croissants!

That's just an example of so many changes that I have made as a consumer.
Others include:

Yogurt... I make my own in re-usable glass jars.
We eat yogurt every day, so making my own is not only a more economical
solution - but it reduces our plastic waste, considerably.


Water...we buy no disposable water bottles.
I carry water with me wherever I go,
so rather than use plastic water bottles,
I use an insulated, steel water bottle.


I use similar containers for my tea.
(You can take your own containers to coffee shops, and they will fill them,
rather...

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Reducing Our Carbon Footprint

As have guessed, with all of our animal (and human) needs...
we are a rather large consumer of energy.
And although our property has a great number of trees that help to offset
our carbon footprint, 
there is much we can do to lessen our environmental impact.

We are converting our house to solar power in the next couple of months.
Up until that point, we have been obtaining our electricity from a 
renewable source.
(We have the option to pick who we pay to provide our electricity.
And although renewable companies cost a little more than those that use
fossil fuels, we feel that it is an important thing to do.)

There are many other ways in which we can all decrease our carbon footprint.

Eat less meat.
(This is actually the #1 way we can make a difference!)


Or buy your meat directly from local farms... making sure it is 100% grass-fed.
We are lucky, where we live, because this is an option.
For many, it is not.
However, cutting back on the amount of meat you eat and substituting other 
sources of protein (such as eggs, beans and rice, and certain grains - like quinoa) 
several times a week is easy.
Industrialized beef farms (from where grocery store meat comes) are responsible
for more greenhouse gas...

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A Brief Adventure

We've packed our bags and hopped a flight across the country.
Our sweet friends are in loving and capable hands for the next several days.


And though we will miss them all,
it's always fun to get away and visit a new place.
For the next few days my gypsy heart will enjoy new sights and sounds and smells.
After two days in San Francisco,
we will spend a few days in Napa and Sonoma at a few organic wineries.
I'll post photos on Instagram from our adventures.


And while we are gone, I have some pre-written and recorded blog posts
to keep you busy.
I promised to talk a little about how we can all reduce our carbon footprint...
and in the next few posts I will share that.


On Monday I have a Christmas at the farm video to share with you.

By Tuesday we will be back in the swing of life on the farm...
and darned glad to be back, I am sure!!


Until we next visit....
Be well.


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The Dirtiest Horses In The World

After what seems like an endless string of rainy days,
we enjoyed an entire dry day yesterday.


Of course, "dry" is a relative term,
as the farm is completely covered in mud.


Our family of equines enjoyed the entire day out in the pasture.
We walked them up to the upper pastures in the morning,
 and back to the barn late afternoon.


I was embarrassed by how dirty they all are right now.
Apparently, the mud did not keep them from rolling.
They just might be dirtier than I have ever seen them.


I was feeling like a neglectful mom,
and then I saw Dr. Becky's horses in the adjoining pasture.


Suddenly I didn't feel so bad.
It's the season for muddy horses!


Everyone enjoyed being out in the mild weather.


The runner ducks have the run of the farm,
and believe me...
they patrol the entire farm every day.




The dogs were ebullient... running and playing and enjoying the day.


I noticed when looking through these photos of the dogs running...
that when they are running at full speed,
their feet barely touch the ground.
As you can see... only one foot is on the ground at a time.


It occurred to me yesterday that the past two years I have baked many gingerbread houses
for our annual gingerbread extravaganza,
but not once...

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Welcome December

I am happy to tell you that our Christmas Tree hunt on Friday
was successful... rainy, but successful.
We brought three trees home with us.
(as of Sunday afternoon, two are decorated.)


We welcomed December on Saturday with
 our annual Gingerbread House Extravaganza.
I had spent a portion of last week baking walls and roofs and gables 
in preparation.


We are lucky to have many small country stores that carry bulk items; 
which made finding the candy trimmings easy.


Using 5 pounds of confectioners' sugar and egg whites,
I made 10 decorating bags full of royal icing 
which were used as the glue in the house construction,
and the frosting for decoration.


As you can see, everyone was quite serious about their house decorating.
We had a blast!
And, we ended up with lovely gingerbread houses.

We took a break to visit the animals...



Mack and Easton's other Grammie (MomMom) came to help
make gingerbread houses, too.


We all stopped to play with the kittens for a little while, as well.


As for the kittens,
after a very close inspection, I found that one of the kittens has a very small
white dot on his chest.
Other than that, I have had to rely upon their personalities to tell them apart.
The tiniest one is the...

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A Chill In The Air

I had almost forgotten how much I love winter!


The sunrises are the best of the entire year.


Yesterday, as I was mucking the front pasture and the icy, cold wind (40mph)
was whistling round my head...
I remembered just how much I love winter.


I love being dressed in warm gear as the winter wind whips around my ears.
I love the feeling of chilly, pink cheeks and fresh cool air in my lungs.
It energizes me.



I could have stayed out for hours, but eventually I ran out of chores.
I visited with the horses and donkeys and got my fill of snuggles.

Apparently, Moonbeam decided that the donkey house was the perfect size for him,


and only him.


(Of course we know that the donkeys' mineral block tastes much better than his.)


Not everyone is a fan of the cold, windy weather.
The cats are happy to spend their days impersonating cheese burgers.


The pigs don't leave their heated corner unless Ritz crackers are involved.


Much of yesterday was spent like this...


These three are so absolutely adorable, I can hardly stand it!
And feisty!


They had their first Vet check yesterday...
still too young to tell if they are boys or girls.
As for telling them apart - impossible!
Not a single one of them has any discernible...

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Triplets!

Brown Sammie has a little something to share with you.
Well, really... it's three little somethings.
And they are on the other side of this door.



Yesterday afternoon I received a text from my brother-in-law, Rob.
He had come across three tiny feral kittens who were in need of a home.
(Rob is our local UPS driver.)

I phoned the woman who had found them and told her I would gladly take them.
And before you could say "kitten rescue", I had hopped in the car and was headed
down a country road.


Arriving at her house I was greeted by about 8 feral black cats who jumped off her porch.
When she can catch them, she has them neutered.
But, not all of them have been catch-able.

Hence, three little kittens... Daryl, Daryl and Daryl the Ferals.


We made them a cozy warm home in an extra stall in the barn.


Dr. Becky is going to examine them today and tell me the sex of each.
They are all identical - jet black with no markings that I could see.
Hence the names.


Stay tuned for kitten adventures.
By the looks of these three, I am sure there will be many!


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Staying Warm Thru Winter's Cold

I am pretty sure that if given the choice,
most of our animals would prefer winter over summer.
Winter definitely has the sheep vote.


Hope seems to prefer being outside even on the coldest of days.
I suppose we would all be toasty warm if we wore a wool coat that was 2 inches thick!


Even the equines don't seem to mind the cold.
With plenty of available hay to use as fuel for their internal heaters...
they eat their way through winter.


You might remember a couple weeks ago how muddy all of the horses were.
It's par for the course on a warmer day after wet weather.
Horses seem to love to roll in the mud.


And though I called them the dirtiest horses in the world,
by the end of the day they were once again spotless.
That mud gets brushed off religiously.

(Dr. Becky's Sid)
Horses need their coats to be fluffy during cold weather.


That thick, fluffy loft provides insulation around their bodies.
(Mud doesn't allow for the hair to act as an insulator.)


Right now, the ground is frozen solid...
so everyone is behaving themselves and not causing us extra work!

I worried how the runner ducks would fare in the winter weather.
They seem to be doing just fine...
still spending their days patrolling the...

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Getting Re-acquainted With Winter

The first order of business,
upon returning home from the sunny, warmer West coast,
was to re-acclimatize my body to the cold.



A brisk 9 degrees F.  yesterday morning helped to make this transition a quick one!


And although it was a great break to wear less bulky clothing...
there is just something wonderful about watching the sun rise,
with lungs full of cold, fresh air.



The only part of me that was out of practice was my hands.
By the time morning chores were complete, my fingers were icicles.


Folks often say "I bet the animals were happy to see you!"
Honestly, I wonder if they even think about the fact that we are gone.
They always have such good care while we are gone,
that I am sure they hardly notice.


We lost a rooster while we were away.
It was not a surprise, however... I had an idea something was wrong with him before we left.
And although I hate to lose any animals, a rooster is the least tragic.
(We had too many.)

Everyone else is in great shape.
The kittens are growing...


But, even with all of the handling that they get,
they are still very "hissy"!
Stinkers!


I am still going to try my hardest to socialize them,
so that neutering them and handling them for vaccinations is easier in the...

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A Frog's Leap Home From The West

All is right with the world.
We are home once again and happy to be here.


Our West Coast adventure was so much fun.
It was one of those trips where everything worked out perfectly.
The stars were in perfect alignment... from flights, to food, to accommodations, to fun.


We spent two days in San Francisco.
Jack attended a one day conference while I explored the city.
By the end of two days, I was ready to drive up into wine country for a taste of
country life.


We split our time between the Napa and Sonoma valleys and visited several
organic wineries.


My favorite winery was Frog's Leap Winery.
Besides being lovely, warm, and welcoming,


it's mission and farming practices spoke to me.


With the goal of water conservation and vine strengthening,
they practice dry farming.
They never water.


Instead, they have planted vines with root systems that grow deep into the soil
to the moisture that is found deep beneath the surface.

In doing so, it allows them to plant a cover crop of beans, lentils and mustard
around the base of the vines to help drive nitrogen back into the soil...
without competing for water with the roots that are much deeper.
(Non-organic wineries have bare dirt around the vines...
evidence of...

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Leftovers

It's hard to believe that all that is left of Thanksgiving,
is a little turkey, stuffing, cranberries and a whole lot of warm and fuzzy memories!

Did you know we have a unicorn on our farm?
We had a lovely Thanksgiving Day meal with our neighbors and friends across the street.
Then Friday, celebrated with our family here at the farm.

Hubbs smoked a turkey,
and unlike last year, 
(we ended up smoking a couple of chickens after our smoked turkey end up as jerky),
this year's turkey was moist and tender and delicious.
(We also grilled a London Broil... just in case.)

(I tried to remove my face from this photo, but ended up looking a little like Cousin It.)
I enjoyed a full two days in the company of my littles and not-so-little-anymore.
I had one on my hip for much of the weekend.
And when the littlest one was occupied, had time to play a few games with Tyler.
(Apples to Apples, Disney version)


Saturday morning, we all went to get Christmas trees for the farm.
We left early to try to beat the rain that was headed our way.
The rain came ahead of schedule.
After several failed attempts at finding a "special" tree farm,
only to later find out that they don't open until this coming Friday,
we returned to...

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Gratitude

The sun rose yesterday morning on a grey and foggy world.


A peaceful stillness hung over the farm as a few of the hidden sun's rays
penetrated the clouds.


I'm learning to greet each day without judgement, without pre-conception of
what the day will bring.
If I watch the day unfold and wish it were different in any way,
then I am diminishing the unique gifts that this one day gives to me.
And not to be morose, but, any given day has the potential of being my last.
The way I see it, there is only one way of having the perfect last day....
Make it so.


If there is one thing that life has taught me, it's that nothing stays the same...
the only thing constant in this world is change.
Weather changes.
Seasons change.
Our lives change.
Time marches on.


As I prepare for our family Thanksgiving celebration,
I remind myself of the importance of gratitude for a happy life.
I am reminded of the loved ones with whom I have shared this celebration in the past,
who are now gone from our table.
And although I miss their presence in my life, I am filled
with gratitude for the times we shared.


I am grateful for those who join us to celebrate...
our blended family...
whose bonds have tightened over the years.
Our day will...

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Looking Beyond

Some days I find that I must be intentional about seeing 
beyond the muck and mire,


to the beauty that is always there.


It happens from time to time, as the beautiful, white snow melts and turns grey,
and the mud runs deep.


When all that was crisp and clean and colorful gets just a little messy looking.
It's then that I look beyond the dirt,
to the beauty beneath it...


Once in a while, nature will give me a gift - 
an unexpected treasure, that acts as a reminder of what was and will be again.


On these cold, damp, grey days, 
we turn our sights inward and bask in the warmth of our home...


or someone else's...


Grazing time is very limited at this time of year.
The horses and donkeys were out in the front pasture for a few hours yesterday,
as much of the snow had melted.
I hate to over-graze the pasture at this time of year when the grass is no longer growing.
Hooves can easily tear up the grass with all of the moisture in the ground.
I try to maintain a good amount of grass there to prevent erosion.


We use the pastures mostly to prevent boredom at this time of year.
Hay is the staple of everyone's diet.


When the sheep are unable to go out to pasture,
they usually wind up inside the pig house feasting...

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Autumn Traditions

Nothing reminds us how important traditions are
 more than Thanksgiving.
It's a holiday filled with tradition...
the foods we eat, the games we play, the parades we watch...
time spent with family and friends.
To me, it's the best of holidays... my favorite!


We celebrate our Thanksgiving on Black Friday,
or "black and blue" Friday as we dubbed it years ago
in the days when our kids were younger and we spent a portion of the day
playing paintball or football.
(Paintball was eventually traded for other less dangerous activities
with the addition of babies and small children.)


With married children, we have found that celebrating our holidays
on days other than the exact holiday assures that everyone
will be able to join us in our celebration.
We try to never compete with anyone else in the kids' families for holiday time.
Picking an "off" day alleviates the problem of them having to choose
 with whom to spend a holiday.


And truly, the date doesn't matter.
Being together and sharing traditions is all that matters.

And so, this week will be filled with cooking and baking and preparations
for our Friday feast.

Neither of these fellows will be on the menu!


Hubbs and I have established our own traditions...

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And Then There Was Snow

Yesterday began with grey clouds looming, and no appreciable sunrise.
The air was still and silent.


A typical winter day... except that it's not really winter yet, is it?
And then this happened...


and it continued throughout the entire day.


By afternoon, the farm had become a winter wonderland.


Can we call it that in November?
December, yes... but November?


Mid-afternoon we headed out to the barn for afternoon chores.


Beautiful and austere.

My snow angels... will they never learn to stand under the many roofs that they 
have available to them?


"What snow?" says Scarlet.

And those runner ducks... out playing in the snow,


and swimming in their snow-filled pool.
I had to chase them into their house for their own good.


I truly think they were just out celebrating the disappearance of the Muscovies.
(Who, by the way, will never be able to find their way home...
too many miles down the road.
I think they will be happy with their new home and their new friends as well.)

By the time we finished afternoon chores, we had gotten the gator stuck in the snow
at least 4 times.


Returning to this was welcomed!!


I love this fireplace.
It is an extremely efficient burner... burning most of the particulate matter in the...

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Muscovy No More

Just a few short weeks ago, Summer had us in her hands...
leading us across the dance floor in a sultry tango.
Not one for coming in on cue, Autumn took his time,
eventually tapping us on the shoulder, requesting a turn around the floor.
Now, before Autumn's fox trot has finished,
Winter is demanding his turn as well - 
sending Autumn to the chairs on the outside of the room.
Winter's dance is a long and complicated waltz,
resembling a dance marathon.


That's the way with seasons in this part of the world.


The ones you wish would grant you a second dance never do.
The others keep you dancing until you drop!


In order to happily survive the year,
it's important to be versatile... and dance like there's no tomorrow!


The winter's first snowstorm is predicted for today...
and it's not even December!
Everyone has heated water buckets, plenty of hay, and warm and dry accommodations.
Hubbs and I will be spending much of the day in front of a roaring fire.


************** 

Thank you for all of the comments regarding our Muscovy dilemma.
After giving our situation some careful consideration,
we decided to re-home the Muscovy Ducks.
I placed an ad on our local FaceBook livestock page.

Within minutes, I had...

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Hunting With A Camera Lens

Morning chores were done yesterday in the dark and the rain.
It seems to be this way more mornings than not these days.
I am guessing that eventually that rain will be replaced by snow...
and if that is the case, we are in for a rather white winter!


By nine in the morning, the rain had stopped, so I headed out for a walk
with the dogs in tow.
Actually, they ran ahead and I was in tow.


Grey clouds hung low over our little valley,


as we hiked through the hayfield -
each blade of grass, glistening with jeweled droplets of water.


Oh, how the dogs love an adventure.
The purpose of our walk was to recover the game cameras we had placed by the stream
just a couple weeks ago.


For the dogs, though, it was just an excuse to run and play


and investigate each and every hole that they came upon.


This particular hole is quite an impressive den for some wild animal -
securely dug beneath a pile of tree trunks.


I couldn't help but notice the fungi growing on rotting, fallen trees.


Autumn fungi is not as colorful as what we find


in the spring and summer...
but every bit as interesting.


I would love to learn more about identifying edible mushrooms,
but, it's a tricky hobby... there are so many look-a-likes.
And they...

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Thoughts From The Day Shift


Sam:  "Hey, Malley, come a little closer."


(whispering) "Did you see this morning's sunrise?"

Each morning, my internal clock awakens me
somewhere between 4 and 6 AM.
It's a time when most people would pull the covers up just a little higher,
and snuggle down into the comfort of their bed for more sleep.


For reasons I don't know,
I am just not one of those people.
I wake up suddenly, fully awake, ready to take on the day.


I'm a morning person.
(And I definitely turn into a pumpkin by 10 PM!)

It's the early morning hours that are most productive for me.
My body, rested from the previous day's activities, is at it's peak in the morning...
as is my mind.


As I work around the farm, feeding and watering animals,
and cleaning up the night's accumulated manure...
 the morning sun rises and the farm is filled with light and color,
and my mind becomes filled with wonder and curiosity and tales to tell.

I am never without my camera, because I know that without it,
I wouldn't be able to share the morning splendor to which I have become accustomed.


I stop what I am doing and watch as the sky intensifies.
Photo after photo is captured...
it's the only way I have of sharing this magnificence with those
who have...

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There is No Place Like Planet Earth

If you've visited us for some time,
then you will have undoubtedly noticed that I avoid the news, politics, religion
and all subjects that divide us.

That division saddens me.
I have my opinions, and my family will tell you that my opinions are strong ones.
Still... this place is not the platform for those topics.
It is my mission to bring to you a daily escape from those things. 


But, we are friends;
and because we are friends, I must share something that has burdened my heart.

This past Friday, while everyone was still basking in the glow of Thanksgiving memories,
or beginning the rush of the coming Christmas season,
the government released its 2018 Climate Assessment.
This is a report that was compiled by 12 federal agencies and hundreds of scientists,
and it serves us a grim warning.
I urge you to look at it... even if you only read the summary...
or read the section that pertains to the area in which you live.
You can find it HERE.


Life as we know it is changing, and is going to continue to change...
radically.

In my opinion, this is the most news-worthy story of our time,
and yet... so much other news supersedes it.
My fear is it will go un-noticed.

My heart is heavy, not because I am afraid...

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Autumn Fly-By

Yesterday afternoon, as I was cleaning the pasture and visiting with the pigs,


and horses...


Hubbs was busy flying his drone and getting some video of Autumn in our neck of the woods.
As you will see, the colors of Autumn have barely touched us.
That's quite unusual for the beginning of November!

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Toddler Time At The Farm

Happy Halloween from all of us wild ones, here on the farm!!


We are all partied out!


Yesterday was our party day here on the farm,
and this picture just about sums up my day...


It was a wonderful day!
With spectacular weather as a backdrop,
I spent the day with six toddlers and their mommies.


We visited the animals...


handing out treats along the way...


I'm not sure who had more treats, the pigs, or this one...


We gathered eggs...


and took turns...


and just generally had the most fun day ever!

All six had a little ride (or sit) on Red.





Mackenzie is quite comfortable around the horses and wanted no one to hold her.


Most of the kiddos didn't know each other but became fast friends.
The Moms brought favorite foods for the little ones' lunch,
and I made lunch for the Moms.



By the end of the day, each toddler had hugs for their new friends and their Moms as well.
And I'm pretty sure most of them were asleep before hitting the end of our lane!

Chester was in heaven... with so many little faces to lick.


This Grammie had the best day ever... with lots of hugs from six adorable littles!

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Some Days Pass Too Quickly

Yesterday passed like a speeding locomotive.
We had signed up for a seminar at PSU (an hour's drive), 
so I had an entire's day worth of work to get finished before noon.
It was also farrier day,
so while Jack attended to the ponies and the farrier 
(and I am told that everyone behaved themselves, thankfully)


I went out early for morning chores,
and found the crazy biker chicks in their usual roosting spot -


up in the tree above their yard.


So far, it seems to be a safe spot,



but I cannot imagine why they wouldn't rather be inside a warm house
on cold, rainy nights.
Except for this reason....


Roosters!

While Hubbs stayed outside with the farrier,
I stayed in the house and cooked.
I braised a whole chicken to make chicken salad for today's visitors.
(We are having toddler time on the farm today and I am making lunch for the Mums.)
I also made a huge pot of root stew for last night's dinner and put it in the crockpot
to finish simmering.
(I use bison cubes and make stew with carrots, parsnips, turnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes,
onions and peas... comfort food for a chilly, damp Autumn day.)
And baked and decorated these shortbread cookies - the perfect treat for Toddlers.
(These are seriously easy to...

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When The Cat's Away...

To some, a rainy Autumn weekend might mean boredom.
To me?
Pure bliss!
Even though we try to live a slow and purposeful life, 
there are days that sweep us away in a flurry of activity.
And while social events and family fun is always wonderful,
there are times when a good rainy weekend at home with nothing on the calendar
is heavenly.


Life on the farm has taught us how important it is to take advantage of the gifts
of every type of day.


It has taught us the importance of seasons,
of sun and rain,
of ebb and flow,
of work and rest,
of fellowship and solitude.


For, without one, it's hard to appreciate the other.

The cat was away this weekend.
Hubbs headed north to visit with his parents,
while I stayed home and tended to the farm.
While the cat was away, this mousie did play!

Being alone has a way of opening one up to all that is around.
The sights, the sounds, the smells.
Solitude and silence make us more aware of that which is outside of ourselves,
if we quiet our brains, as well.
Think less... and experience more.


It rained a bit this weekend, as predicted.
Luckily, though, there seemed to be breaks in the rain at the times that I went outside for animal chores.
I love these times.
I love quietly...

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Getting Our Ducks In A Row

I try to keep my ducks in order,
but chaos seems to be more the way of the world,
doesn't it?


Seriously, though, these seven Muscovy ducks are the embodiment of chaos.


Oh, how I wish I could turn back the hands-of-time to the day
when seven adolescent ducks came home to live at the barn.
My only wish is that I had known at the time that those adorable,
fluffy, multi-colored ducklings were going to grow up to be 
these red, wrinkly-faced, testosterone-driven, barn-pooping, chaos-causing quackers!


If I had had that knowledge when they arrived,
they most definitely would have become pond ducks, rather than barn ducks.


Our runner ducks are delightful.


They roam all over the farm, 
in a somewhat orderly fashion,
like big-billed penguins without their tuxedos.



They fill their day with all sorts of merriment as they run here and there,
in search of tasty morsels.


The Muscovy ducks, also roam the farm-
much more slowly, however.
They emerge from their hut every morning and spread their wings...
shaking off the stiffness of the previous night's roosting.
Then two or three of them take to the air
on a perimeter flight around the farm.
They quietly circle the farm about fifty feet in the air,
their wings "fluff,...

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Winter's Early Arrival

We awoke to our first snowy morning on Saturday.


It snowed for about 15 minutes and lasted just a few minutes longer,


but it was enough to give us a taste of the winter to come.


We winterized the water buckets, hooking them up to electricity to keep them from freezing,
as the past few mornings have been in the 20's.
The rest of the weekend was clear and cold... perfectly wintery.

I spent Saturday cooking and baking, as Sunday was planned as a family day.


Three of our kids, and their families spent Sunday on the farm.
I was in heaven... surrounded by my favorite littles!


I love days like these... they feel like holidays, without the fuss.


The kids love to spend time around the animals


and are always eager to come help with farm chores.



We sat by the fire (first fire in the fireplace for this year),
we played play doh and put puzzles together,
and ate a big meal late afternoon...
Lasagne soup, mini meatball grinders and roasted vegetables.
Cuppy-cakes for dessert!
Perfect!

Then afterward, we all went out to the big yard by the barn to play.


Tyler loves soccer and loves playing with his aunt, his mom and his uncles.


Annie gets so excited when everyone plays soccer, and joins in the game.


Chester and...

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Country Life

I love country life.
Truly.
There is no place in this entire world that I would rather be
but right where I am right now.


Since ten years ago, when we left the suburbs for full-time farm living,
I have never once looked back and missed suburbia.
From the moment that my feet landed on farm soil,
I felt like I was home:
exactly where I was always meant to be.
And that's a really great feeling!


One of my favorite things is running errands and driving through the countryside.


Yesterday, I had to have new tires put on my car.
We try to use local businesses whenever possible.
This is our tire shop...
(on the left)


I love these rural scenes,
and this slower-paced rural life.


Having spent the first half of my life in such a different environment,
has, perhaps, given me a much deeper appreciation for this quiet, country life.


Besides having tires put on my car, 
we spent much of yesterday running necessary errands:
 to the produce market for veggies (now that our garden is winterized),
and to the feed store for animal feed.

 Once home, I spent a little time just taking photos around the farm,
getting used to a new camera.


You see, while we were in Africa there was never a minute when my camera 
was not on me.

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Sam's Story

If you have traveled this road with us since the beginning, 
you may remember the story of how Brown Sammie came to live on the farm.
If not, this is your chance.
Pour yourself a cup of tea or coffee... this is quite the story.


Sam had his humble beginnings in a rescue in Charlotte, North Carolina,
about ten years ago.
He had been found, along with his brother, wandering in the woods outside of the city.

At the time, our two boys, Andy and Ryan were living together in Charlotte.
Andy, having graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering was working for an industrial mixing manufacturer in Charlotte.
 Ryan, who had graduated from PSU with a degree in industrial psychology and supply chain,
 had also found a job in Charlotte and relocated from Pennsylvania.
New to Charlotte, Ryan moved in with Andy who had bought a townhouse just outside the city.
Naturally, a dog was the next logical step.

Enter Sammie.

Andy found Sammie at a shelter and the two became fast friends.


House training progressed well with one set-back.
Sammie had a bad case of separation anxiety and ate his way out of his crate.
After that, they boys tried keeping Sam in his room with a baby gate.
Easily scaled, the baby gate...

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Posers

Brown Sammie is photogenic.
And cooperative.
Of all the dogs we have had, he seems to understand the value of posing for the camera.
And here he is: with his "innocent" look.


Then, a paw comes into the photo,
obviously trying to push Sammie aside.


"My turn!" says Chester.
"What paw?"


All three... such loves.


Annie is not much for posing, but since I asked,
she begrudgingly obliged.
(Note lack of smile.)

Finally, late yesterday afternoon, the rain stopped and the sun made a weak attempt at shining,
as it neared the horizon.

I let the horses out in the front pasture for a couple of hours.
As they trotted through the gate,
hooves went slipping and sliding on soggy ground.


What a bedraggled group of equines.
Especially this one:


He truly looks as though no one loves him.


As soon as everyone dries out,
a good grooming is in order.
To attempt it when they look this bad...
would be like putting lipstick on a pig.

You know, come to think of it...
MaryAnn might look quite nice with a little lipstick!


Yesterday morning I noticed this wooly fellow by the front of the barn.
By late afternoon, he had crawled the whole way back the aisle towards the feed room.
According to the Farmer's Almanac, the amount of black on...

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How We Spent A Rainy Monday

Yesterday morning,
we were greeted at the chicken house by a bevy of hens
who looked as though they had spent the night 
"wasted away again...."
in Margaritaville.


You'd think that these crazy chickens would learn.
It was 40 degrees and steadily raining...
which, to Jack and I, ranks a "9" on the dismal scale.
(Wind would bump it up to a "10.")


Not only did they stay out all night,
but in true morning-after form,
one of them laid an egg while perched 8 feet or more up in the tree.


Luckily, wet ground is soft ground - and the egg, though tiny, was intact.
I am guessing that the hen in question was quietly trying to pass a little gas...
and was quite surprised when an egg hit the ground.
Had she been entirely sober, she might have been mortified
as her gal-pals cackled uproariously.
Oops!

After a solid 16 hours of rain, the farm is more mud than not.


 (Almost) Everyone stayed in yesterday.


If you asked the horses, they might complain that days like that are boring.


However, if you ask me, or the ducks,
we will tell you that a rainy day is a gift.


Appreciative of the extra time without outdoor chores,
I spent the rainy hours working in my sewing room.
I finished the first of a pair of Nordic mittens and...

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